Massey helps design NZ Police uniform hijab

Constable Ali in the newly designed hijab.

Constable Ali in the newly designed hijab.

The decision by New Zealand Police to introduce a hijab to their official uniform received worldwide attention, from the BBC to the Independent, and Massey University apparel design researchers helped to create this world first. 

Deb Cumming and Nina Weaver, from Nga Pae Mahutonga Wellington School of Design, worked alongside New Zealand Police over a 16-month period to develop the first hijab as part of their operational uniform.

Senior lecturer in the Wellington School of Design Deb Cumming says they were approached by New Zealand Police while running the summer school course ‘Accessible and inclusive Fashion Design’ to see if they were interested in the design brief.

“The project to develop the operational hijab fitted really well into other research we do for functional pattern design for increased fit and movement.”

The thorough design process included the consultation, design and development to produce the samples, production specifications and final prototype for wear. Much time was taken to refine and respond to multiple wear test requirements for fit and performance as well as important considerations of identity.

The police hijab was created so that more Muslim women might consider policing as a career option and to create an inclusive police service that reflects our New Zealand community.

“It feels really meaningful to be part of the project and it’s been a fantastic process working with the police as it has been such a thorough, user-centred design approach, from consultation with women Muslim groups on a nationwide basis, to the rigorous performance wear testing and New Zealand Police review and approval process.”

Constable Ali was the first recruit who requested to wear a hijab as part of her uniform. As the process of developing a police uniform hijab was already underway prior to her enrolment, she was invited to take part in the co-design development process.

Deb Cumming says they have really enjoyed the co-design aspects in the process.

“It was great to hear the positive comments from Constable Ali both on the fit and performance aspects of the pattern design and associated feelings of identity,” she says.

Operation Hijab Design description: The hijab is designed to be worn with all police issue headwear. The hijab fits the head and neck/shoulder area to allow for freedom of movement and rigorous performance, with contoured panels and reinforced zones for durability, access for communication device and quick release fastening system for safety reasons. It is made from a technical sports fabric which is light to wear, antibacterial, moisture wicking and robust.

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Toi Rauwhārangi
College of Creative Arts
Wellington, Aotearoa